Stoic philosophers often visualized, in vivid detail, several worst-case scenarios in their lives.
In some cases, they even acted out these scenarios. For a few days every month, a stoic would eat the simplest fare off a dog’s feeding bowl, wear tattered clothes and live the life of a Roman slave.
You’d think that this obession with the worst-case would turn them into paranoid pessimists. However, it ended up doing the opposite – it turned them into die-hard optimists.
This is because negative visualization wasn’t an end in itself. Whenever the stoic performed such exercises, they would often ask themselves if this was the condition they most feared. On successfully enduring a mild version of their worst-case scenarios, they stop fearing them. Their exercises allowed them to enjoy the pleasures of life by innoculating them against the fear of loss.
Further, a glimpse of the worst-case often left them most grateful for the simplest of life’s pleasures, knowing fully well that these pleasures can be snatched away at any time. Therefore, they did not take even life’s basic needs for granted.
A stoic would not see a glass of water as being half full. Instead, they would be thankful for the existence of the glass itself – a wondrous container that can hold liquids, is transparent and is still intact as opposed to being shattered into pieces.
Inspiration: Guide to a Good Life